Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Sunday Conversation with The Dooberies

This week, we caught up with the soulful voice of Georgie Butts, who leads the folk-y groove rockin' band, The Dooberies. Settle in as we discuss making music in a male dominated industry, the song writing process, and what the future holds for the band. This is a Sunday Conversation with The Dooberies.

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, and Simon & Garfunkle, the first time I ever hear Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.What have been your musical epiphany moments?

Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ (dancing in the rain at 5am at a bike rally) – I was utterly entranced by this tune, despite no obvious hook, or even melody! It somehow captures a transient mood, which is something I’ve been trying (and failing) to re-create ever since. There could have been external influences at work with that one though… ;) ‘Bless The Weather’ by John Martyn (late at night, in front of a crackling fire in a deep discovery of love) – this is such a beautiful, simple and very personal song. John Martyn is an appallingly under-rated, or perhaps just un-recognised singer/songwriter. Metallica at Milton Keynes Bowl when the lights went out and the chopper sound at the start of “One” kicked in…how to UTTELRLY captivate 60,000 people!! Being introduced to the REAL ZZ Top – I’d only known their slightly cheesy chart tracks, but BOY can they play diiiirrrttyyy ;)

Genre's are so misleading and such a way to pigeonhole bands. Without resorting to labels, how would you describe your music?

Diverse! It’s refreshing to be asked NOT to label our sound, as we always have to cite at least four genres and must sound There are a few reasons behind thisJlike a right wishy-washy, indecisive bunch I think; for starters, amongst the 5 of us, we have a broad range of musical tastes anyway – from Miles Davis to Kiss! …and pretty much everything in between. Powerful? But not in a “heavy” sense – we try to look at a song as a whole, as every listener will tune in to a different part. Thought-provoking…and I REALLY hope that’s true. Good rhythms – we try and make sure there’s a variety ;) A complete sound – we try and give everybody room to do their thing in a song, without any one instrument dominating. Having said that, in terms of “Omens” (our last album) there is a heavy harmonica presence on every track, which is not to everybody’s taste, but we’ve learned a lot from recording that album and have achieved a much happier balance now…we can’t wait to get back in the studio and properly define our sound with the next cd.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

It really is different every time. Jed and I write a lot of songs together and that will usually be a case of Jed coming up with a riff and me writing a song around it, although sometimes Jed will say “I want this to be about ‘blah’” or have a few lines already. I also write a fair amount on my own and those songs tend to be written in a fit of inspiration that brings everything together at once. The less frequent but very rewarding route, is when we come up with a tune just jamming as a band. We like to have a loose jam at the start of every practice/rehearsal and it’s usually pretty inspiring. On occasion, a conversation will create a spark – “Who Is Me?” was inspired by our drummer Paul having a rant about “identity theft” over a post-party breakfast one morning!

What is you musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?

Well that is different every time I write a song, but I guess the common denominator is wanting to get ‘inside’ the listener. Some songs make my heart soar, some fill my belly, others take complete control of my feet and the very occasional one actually raises my pulse without any movement. I’d like a good mix of these on the next album!

What makes a great song?

Aah…now if I knew that, it’d be at No. 1!!! It also depends on your definition of “great”…I don’t think the ingredients for a chart hit are necessarily the same as those for a song that can leave a lasting impression or really mean something to someone.

What piece of your music are you particularly proud of?

I think it would have to be “Nailed” at the moment, although I’m proud of the whole band on that one – we were rehearsing out in the studio one night and I’d gone into the house to mash tea. I was walking back down the drive clutching 5 mugs of red-hot liquid, but had to stand transfixed (with the scalding stuff dribbling down my wrists) listening to this beautiful sound rising from the roof. After about 2 minutes, I walked back in and wrote down most of the words straight away. It was just one of those that songs that came together in a moment of time.

Despite the success of lots of female artists, it's still a tough business for a woman slugging it out in a male-dominated world. What have you come up against and how have you handled it?

I can’t actually say that I’ve experienced any real problems “as a woman”. Obviously, there are some men that will always patronise women, but then there are women who will patronise all men! Happily, my main experience is of “people” – promoters aren’t going to dismiss a woman who CAN pull a crowd in favour of a man who CAN’T. It’s really a case of proving yourself, whatever your gender I think. I’m also very lucky in my band-mates – they are totally cool and a few “ask Georgie”’s puts most folk straight!

The business of music is a brutal place. Changes in technology have made it easier than ever for bands to get their music out, but harder than ever to make a living? What are your plans to move the band forward? How do you stay motivated in this brutal business?

Phew! Two distinct questions there…and I’ll go for the last first. Motivation is possibly one of the most major issues for me, when one snide comment can counteract twenty hearty congratulations after a gig. I’ve found the band’s progression a bit like climbing a mountain – you’re working hard and building up a sweat, but the peak is in site and you’re absolutely buzzing. There’s a great surge of energy when you finally top the rise, but then you realise it’s just a ridge and the peak is actually the same distance again in an uphill climb. I think the key to managing that is having realistic aims in the first place and acknowledging each step as an accomplishment of its own. I remember when we first got to play at “Hawkfest” and it was being held at Donington Park. We were like “HEY!! WOO HOO!!! We’re playing with HAWKWIND!!!” It was a brilliant weekend, but Monday inevitably came around and it was a slight anti-climax to find that life hadn’t altered that much. But then you look at it objectively and think that 3 of us have been fans of Hawkwind for 30-odd years and Dave Brock actually wanted us to play at his festival, which is a pretty cool thing, even if we never played another gig! That’s why we stick with “Havin’ a good time” as our band motto – if we were in this for money or for the pure musical appreciation of others, then we’d be frequently disappointed, but we nearly ALWAYS have a good time ;)So in terms of moving the band forward, we’re just going to keep doing what we do; strive to improve our sound with every new song and play lots of gigs to reach as many people as possible. The great thing about digital promotion is you can do it as and when it suits you, and you also discover LOTS of other music while you’re at it! In fact, I’d say that a lot of our really great experiences as a band have involved the people we’ve met along the way.

Describe to us the ideal (realistic) record label and how you'd work with them, and they with you.

Well four of the five of us don’t even have a tv, so we wouldn’t really want to throw ourselves into all the intense visual promotion stuff, but then you’ve got to accept that a certain amount would be necessary. I suppose it would be a company that offered a ‘tiered’ contract, ie. Do this and we’ll give you a budget of that…do THIS and we’ll give you a budget of THAT etc. I’m not convinced that this makes much sense actually, so let’s just go for honesty – on both sides. A label that will get the peace pipe out and hammer things out round a table, rather than assuming they know what’s best and massaging the artist ego until they’re completely pliable, lol.

We, at The Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. When we come to your town, what's the best record store to visit?

Sadly, the digital age has limited my options here… R.I.P Diskits of Sutton-in-Ashfield – a great little shop with a blues-based, eclectic mix, who would order you ANYTHING. Hudson’s Music in Chesterfield (Derbyshire) is still hanging on in there though and they are fantastic for stocking cd’s of local, unsigned bands that have produced their own albums/E. Ps.

Georgie, thanks for your time and we can't wait to hear the new work!

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